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Flying With Baby

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Tomorrow we're off to Canada on holiday (ay?)
So this week I'm commanding a small military operation preparing us for the flight. In the last year we have successfully circumnavigated the globe, passed through airport security in seven different airports, four different countries and we've even braved a budget airline. So today I thought I'd share some tips for flying with baby...
First off, booking your flight. It's a bit of a myth that kids under two fly 'free'. Well... sure, they don't have to pay the price of a normal ticket. But they still have to pay airport tax and a booking fee (plus a dozen more 'fees' if you're on a budget airline). So a baby will still cost you about £170 to fly to Australia or £130 to fly to the states.
Budget airlines are run by childless baddies who conduct social experiments with non-allocated seating just to see which passengers will kill the rest. It’s perfectly reasonable to kill whoever you need to to get to on the plane first.
On bigger planes you can request a bassinet but it's not actually confirmed until the day when they see how many babies turn up so it's best to get there early, unless you're a sadist. Another reason to turn up early, you can't check-in online when you've booked a bassinet. As much as the website looks like it will check you in, you'll get to a point where it won't go any further and you'll end up shouting "Why?!" at the computer a lot. It will look like the leg room seats have all already been taken but they’re actually reserved for people like you. So save yourself the cyber rage and get there three hours before an international flight.
What you gain in leg room, you lose in comfort because of the small person squirming on your lap but it's not as bad as it sounds so long as you lower your expectations of the whole flying experience and resign yourself to the following things: You won't get any sleep, you might not get to eat, you might not get to watch any films, your child will be 'that bloody kid' and everyone around you will hate you. (I console myself with the fact that I will never see any of these people ever again.) Once you have come to terms with this, you can make preparations.
Try to take a long haul flight that leaves as early in the day as you can.... (not like, crazy early, like 6am, that's just silly) but something in the morning would be ideal. When we flew to Australia we left in the evening, so by the time we arrived after 3 flights we'd been travelling for 36 hours but I'd been awake for another 12 on top of that... I was so tired I was having head spins while standing on an escalator with a kid strapped to me. Not ideal.
Babies are easier to fly with when they are oblivious to everything around them. I think the ‘golden age’ for long haul flights would be two to seven months old. Elliot was five and a half months when we went to Australia. Old enough to sleep for a few hours, young enough to be content sitting in one spot. When we came back things were different. He was seven months old and had started eating solid food, so mealtimes were messy, he could sit up on his own and he had to be constantly distracted from his main aim which was to find an escape route. He was quite happy sitting up in the bassinet but due to his massive head, if he looked over the edge it was enough to topple him right over head-first into my lap so I had to be on the ball all the time.

Next, what to pack. The airlines all have slightly different rules for luggage so check before you book your flight. The usual luggage allowance is something like:
Adults: 1 piece of hand luggage up to 10kg, 2 pieces of check in up to 32kg in total
Babies: 2 items of check in luggage which as long as it is either; a pram, a car seat or a travel cot, 1 small bag for hand luggage with necessities like baby food and nappies.
You will probably need to take a car seat with you because taxis don't always have them. The Bugaboos Bee is great because a MaxiCosi car seat clips onto it on top of its normal seat so you can hop in a cab if need be. In many countries they don't have car seats at all and they are happy for you to hold the baby on your lap.
Some airports have baby buggies in the terminal and most airlines, including Easyjet, let you take the pram right up to the gate and it’s there at the other end as soon as you get off the plane but even getting on and off the plane can take ages so it’s good to have a papoose (like an Ergobaby) too.
Babies get extra luggage allowances which makes things easier but consider the fact that you may have to carry all your luggage nad your baby on your own at some point, with no help and no trolley. You will end up looking like a creature from Labyrinth. For this reason we don’t use a wheely suitcase, it’s impossible to use while pushing a pram, we take a big rucksack instead. So I have a big rucksack on my back, small handbag over one shoulder, baby in the car seat, car seat clipped into the pram, hand luggage dangling from the pram, small baby bag under the pram, duty free liquor in with the baby.
Due to terror, disorganisation or invisible clouds there’s a good chance you will be delayed, so take enough supplies to last you for 24 hours… even if it’s a 2 hour flight. Your luggage may get lost or you may arrive somewhere after everything is closed, like in Italy on a Tuesday afternoon. You should also consider the following when packing your hand luggage; Imagine the biggest poo your baby has ever done, along with the most vomit that has ever come out of him. Now imagine that it happens all at once while you’re sitting on a plane. Take everything you would need in that situation. Plus some extra stuff in case it happens again. Things you will need to take with you…
In the small baby hand luggage bag:
Passports & tickets (derr)
Bottle with powder formula
Baby snacks - like rice cakes, muesli bars, bananas
Nappy bag with wipes, calpol sachets, hand sanitizer, sudocrem
Plastic shopping bags for soiled things
A blanket for baby to play on in the airport… the floor is disgusting except in Singapore where bacteria is illegal.
Hand luggage main bag:
Toys and books
More wipes
Formula - powder
Formula - cartons
Nappies x 10
Another sterilised bottle (in a zip lock bag)
Baby food and spoons
More baby food in case you're waiting at the airport
Snacks for you
More plastic bags for nappies, dirty clothes, uneaten food etc.
Baby clothes - sleepsuits x 3, jumpers x 2 (it gets really cold in planes)
A spare outfit for you in case Vomigeddon occurs
Muslins and bibs
If you’re breast feeding a new bra might be nice too 
 
If you're flying on your own eat as much as you can before you get on the plane. You may not get the chance to have a proper meal in the air. The staff will sometimes put it aside for you until your baby is asleep, but there’s a good chance another staff member will throw it out. Grrr! Even on a stopover, you'll spend most of your time in the baby change room so don't depend on grabbing some noodles in the food court. Eating less on long flights is actually really good a for jetlag. A new study has found that our body clock is dictated by our stomach. So if you avoid food altogether, your body will adjust to a new timezone more easily…. But if you’re like me you’ll also be really really grumpy.

 
Now, getting through security. It’s nice that airport officials are keeping us all safe with vigilant safety checks but getting through security on your own with a bub is a bit of nightmare because airport staff aren’t allowed to hold your baby (which is absurd). The great thing about planes these days though is that they’re full of retirees who are always willing to help. Line yourself up behind one in the queue and as soon as you start to struggle putting a baby back in a papoose you’ll be amazed at how quickly a granny will offer to help. Without the help of about a dozen grannies my trip to Australia would have been impossible. Grannies we salute you!
Getting formula through security is a right pain because you aren’t allowed to take more that 100ml of liquid onto a plane, but it is up to the security official’s discretion. They may ask you to taste it. I take two small 200ml cartons of formula and an empty sterilised bottle. They will ask you to open one of the cartons and drink some (they are meant to ask you to drink the 50% of it, but they rarely do). Then I pour the rest of the carton into the bottle and keep it for take off. I also bring some sachets of powdered formula so if the cartons are taken from me I can buy a bottle of water after going through security and mix it with the powder.
Taking a small sachet of powder through security could be an issue for obvious reasons! Last time I took powder in small sachets divided into one feed each, I bought some bags with cartoon characters on them to avoid looking like a drug mule… not sure it worked…
At the gate let the bubba do all the roaming, screeching and crawling he wants. This is where a blanket for the floor comes in handy. He will be confined to a small space for a long time so be as energeic and noisy as possible to tire him out and watch everyone’s faces as they secretly hope you’re not in the seat next to them.
Once you’re actually on the plane carefully organise your most essential items to be within arms reach. On one flight I plonked Elliot on the floor as we boarded and gave him the inflight magazine. This worked a treat. He happily shredded it up into tiny pieces for long enough for me to get organised with all our junk. Luckily we were flying Singapore Airlines so the staff were unfathomably polite and just said kindly, “Shall I clear this away for you now?” referring to the mountain of paper at my feet.
As you take off remember that little ears don’t agree with pressurised cabins (smaller planes are worse than bigger ones) and it can be very painful for them if they don’t pop their ears with the change in air pressure. Feed your baby some water or milk as the plane takes off and comes down, the swallowing action will help them pop their ears. But! Remember that you have to stay in your seat for ages so don’t start feeding until the plane is actually doing it’s run up, sometimes it toodles around the tarmac for ages and the bottle will be empty by the time you actually need it.
And one more piece of advice. Once you're in the air, crack open a sachet of Calpol for the little one, and get yourself a stiff drink! You deserve it!

Doing The Monster Mash

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Yesterday was Elliot's first birthday party and it was perfect! 

For the last week we've been planning costumes, decorations, cakes and hardly had time to sleep but it all came together beautifully. The rain held off for a beautiful day in the park. Our military operation of getting the boy to sleep at the right time to be a happy monster for the party worked a treat and he was such an angel all day.

Some of the other babies dressed up in their best monster gear. Aurelia's zombie outfit was alarming and gorgeous all at the same time and Macy's pterodactyl outfit was an incredible feat. Especailly seeing as it was put together using a travel sewing kit!

I'll upload the recipe for the baby friendly carrot cupcakes and some instructions on how to make your own monster finger puppets and details of the monster cake!

Elliot's actual birthday is on Saturday so we're saving most of the presents for then. Happy Birthday my little monster!!






























On this day...

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I can't believe it's been a year since THIS. My how time flies.  Preparations are underway for the big party on Sunday. There will be cake, bunting and of course MONSTERS!

Sending lots of love to Celia and Keith who are at St Tommies right now going through it all.Can't wait to meet mini McCarthy!
xoxo

Mum skills: Working it

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a modern woman who has just had a baby must be planning to return to work. Or is she?

If someone had asked me years ago what sort of maternity leave I would take,  I would have said, "I'll take 6 months off and go back to work. I'm a career lady. I'll be bored silly talking to a baby all day." My career was of huge importance and having a husband who was keen to stay at home slaving over a hot stove, I was pretty sure we had it all figured out.

But it's just not that simple. You don't know how you're going to feel once you have that cute little gurgling spew monster in your arms. It’s not easy to find the confidence to go out and talk yourself up and when you finally do, you face a new kind of prejudice.

For me, it would have been incredibly hard to go back to work when Elliot was 6 months old. It seemed too soon, but many people do it. In Australia, it’s a financial necessity. In the states women only get 12 weeks off which seems incredibly harsh. At 12 weeks I was still wincing from back pain, delirious from broken sleep and likely to leak spontaneously throughout the day. But that's the reality for so many women. If you're serious about your career, you have to keep calm and carry on, but only if it's right for you. 

In his book How Not To F*** Them Up (one of my favourites) Oliver James talks about the importance of the mother's happiness in a family unit. Statistically, families where the mother feels depressed about her position, whether she's bored in the home or frustrated with work, are more likely to fall apart. The mental health of the mother, more than any other family member, impacts on the rest of the family so the decision to return to work has to feel right for the individual. There is no shame in giving up your career for your family, or going straight back to work, whatever makes you most fulfilled is the right answer for you.

As it turned out, the time I had off wasn't nearly as boring as I'd imagined, but I had to manage my time in new and clever ways. So many people said "You need to sleep when he sleeps" Which sounds great, but it fails in two areas;
1. Babies tend to sleep when you walk them around in a pram ...and although I've tried it, it's actually quite hard to sleep while doing this.
2. If you do manage to get a baby to sleep during the day in his own bed, you have approximately forty five minutes to do everything you need to do that day, like; have a shower, brush your hair, make lunch, make dinner, eat, look in the mirror, find a clean jumper, tidy the house, pay the car insurance and locate at least two shoes that match. Once he's awake, he'll want to leave the house, so it's best you prioritise these tasks and find the matching shoes first.

I found it hard to come to terms with the amount of time I had to spend 'doing things'. Babies need to be stimulated constantly, even if it's just watching you have a conversation. Suddenly I had all the time in the world to go to cafes and eat cake, but no time to write emails or clean the house. All this time 'doing things' gives you time to think. As an out of work creative person with no creative outlet, I found myself bursting with ideas, but no time to do them, which is incredibly frustrating.

Making the transition a year ago from 'Emma The Art Director' to 'Elliot's Mum' was a challenge, especially because I felt that up until then I had defined myself by my job. After a little internal struggle and a minor identity crisis, I have embraced being known as 'Elliot's Mum' (I did make him myself after all) and just when I'm getting comfy in my new skin, it's time to revisit my former self. It's all fun and games daydreaming about becoming a pro blogger or starting my own gift-wrap/book-design/party-planning company, but truth be told, if we ever want to have another baby, I need to make some money. So it's back to work for me.

This TED talk from Facebook COO (not sure what a COO actually is but it seems important) Sheryl Sandberg hits the nail on the head. It's not fair for women, it's just not, but the more aware we are of our challenges, the more we can overcome them. Much of succeeding in the workplace is about believing you're the best. Confidence is hard enough to find most of the time, but when you've taken a year off to become expert in hard to lift stains and discreet places to get your boobs out, it takes even more mojo to get you there.

Perhaps starting from scratch and finding a whole new job is harder than going back to a your old one. (A familiar desk, familiar colleagues, same bus route sounds quite nice.)  But even still, the biggest shift to get used to is that you have changed so much, but everyone else has stayed the same. The first few times I went out without Elliot I thought, "No one knows I'm a mum, I just look like a regular person" then I realised how many other women might be thinking the same thing. "I wonder who else has a tiny pair of spare socks in their power handbag?" And I realised, there are so many of us who make it work. I felt like the time was right.

So I sent out some emails with a CV and examples of my work. I contacted former employers, recruitment agents, advertised positions. No response. A month later I got the confidence to do it again. I wrote a different email, sent it out and instantly received calls and emails and got myself a job!

So what was the difference? The first email started with, "I am returning to work after my maternity leave and I'm looking for freelance or full-time work", the second started with, "I am looking or freelance or full-time work". U-huh, that’s right, plain old discrimination.

People aren't allowed to discriminate against mothers. But perhaps they can't help it. Perhaps I am guilty of it myself. They assume we're out of the loop, we can't work long hours, we aren't passionate about our jobs. And maybe that’s true, we've got other important things in our lives... but we're still capable of doing our jobs. We can still come up with great ideas, solve problems, manage teams and handle tight deadlines. We're actually more experienced at those things than we were before kids. Because although we can't stay at work until 10pm every night, we're doing all those things 24 hours a day without even knowing it. That's just what mums do.

So in a few weeks when I start my fancy new fashion job, I'm not going to feel inferior to the guys talking themselves up and the girls with up-to-the-minute hairstyles, because I have all sorts of new skills that I can unleash on my career.

I can function perfectly well on 4 hours sleep.
I can diffuse a temper tantrum through the powers of distraction
I can get ready to leave the house in 10 minutes flat
I can instantly come up with a new solution when the first one is thrown on the floor
I have patience for those who need a little more help than others
I know how to stand up for what is important to me
and I can accomplish all manner of tasks in 45 minutes and I can do it one handed if need be.

11 months

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 New skills:
Standing on my own for up to 10 seconds!
Rarrr! (Like a lion)
Putting things back in holes (instead of just taking them out)
Drinking from a sippy cup
Eating small things like raisins
Favourite words:
Mama! This means 'mum' and 'cuddles' and 'get me out of here!'
Da! This means 'dad' and 'food' and 'hey look at me!'
Bye bye! This means 'bye bye' ... derr.

Favourite songs:
Uptown Top Rankin'
I like to do the "Uu!" bit when Mum and Dad sing it
Old Macdonald Had A Farm - I like to sing the "E i e i OOoo" bit

Favourite things:
Dangerous stuff like stairs and slippery dips. I love climbing.
I like to put my head down on soft things as if I'm going to sleep
Blowing raspberries on Mummy's arm
Blowing a raspberry when Daddy does a fart




Improvisation

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July 23rd

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While I am saddened by the news of Amy Winehouse I am also enjoying watching the neighbours bash a dick-and-balls pinata.

July 11th - What does a lion do?

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video

Baby's first...

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I can't believe my baby is almost one year old. He has become a proper little lad already.  In the last week there have been a few 'firsts' that make me a little proud and a little sad that it's all going so fast.

1. 
Baby's First Steak & Chips
Tom makes a mean steak and chips, I keep telling him he should open a shop. Elliot loves it and thanks to Baby Led Weaning, he can eat it all by himself.


2. 
Baby's First Bar Brawl
A nice day out at the park turned sour when some kid looked at Elliot funny ...Not really, he had a run in with a wall while trying to stand. You should see the wall.

3. 
Baby's First Plank


All the kids are doing it. Check it out. This one was inspired by Auntie Sophie's deft planking skills. Hey, at least he's not looting.

Little Buddha

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July 22nd - Horrendous

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I would use the word 'horrendous' to describe two things I have seen today: The first, a woman beating a crow to death with a cricket bat at the park. The second, our landlord's choice of fabric for our newly upholstered couch.
 

Tom needs a haircut, he's starting to resemble Liza Minnelli

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Pick The Band Playing At The Brixton Academy

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My new favourite game.
Pick the band by the punters getting off the tube.
Today's clue:
Mild mannered, slightly overweight men in their late 30s wearing ironic t-shirts and boring sneakers. 
Answer: Weezer

July 2nd - Mr and Mrs Wilkinson

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 We travelled to a barn in the hills of Derbyshire for Chris and Lucia's beautiful wedding. We had serious wedding envy. Being a craft nerd, the bride had decked the whole it out beautifully and Tom is still talking about the pulled pork from the pork van. Elliot wasn't such a fan. He threw up all over Tom during the bride's dad's speech and we all had to leave early. Oh well!